Lawyer Michael Avenatti is facing coast-to-coast charges in separate extortion and fraud schemes, the feds announced Monday.
Avenatti — who shot to fame representing porn star Stormy Daniels over her claims of an affair with President Trump and more recently the parents of Azriel Clary, one of R. Kelly’s alleged “sex slaves” — was arrested in Manhattan on charges that he tried to shake down the sneaker giant Nike for $20 million last week, authorities said.
“I’ll go take $10 billion off your client’s market cap … I’m not f–king around,” court papers say he told Nike lawyers during a conference call Wednesday.
That conversation came a day after Avenatti met with Nike’s lawyers and “threatened to release damaging information” if the company didn’t pay off Avenatti and an unidentified co-conspirator, according to a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.
The Wall Street Journal identified the alleged co-conspirator as lawyer Mark Geragos, citing two people familiar with the matter.
Avenatti’s alleged “not f–king around” threat allegedly came on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings report, and two days before the start of the NCAA’s “March Madness” college basketball tournament.
The charges against him were revealed just minutes after Avenatti — who recently flirted with a Democratic presidential campaign — tweeted that he would be holding a Tuesday morning news conference about “a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered.”
“This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball,” he claimed.
During an afternoon news conference, Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Avenatti told Nike that if his demands weren’t met, the company would be “inflicted with cut after cut after cut after cut.”
“A suit and tie doesn’t mask the fact that at its core this was an old-fashioned shakedown,” Berman said.
As for the charges against him in California, prosecutors in the Golden State allege that Avenatti stole a client’s $1.6 million settlement and spent the cash on personal expenses and debts, and to run his law firm and former coffee business, Tully’s Coffee, which had stores in Los Angeles and Seattle.
Avenatti is also accused of defrauding a bank in Mississipi by using fake tax returns to borrow $4.1 million, even though he never filed personal tax returns for 2011, 2012 and 2013 — and still owes the IRS more than $850,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest for 2009 and 2010, the feds said.
Story cited here.